Opening a Sober Living Home
By Gloria J Neumeyer
Founder of Adams House in San Angelo TX
A sober living home a home shared by a group of people agreeing to stay clean and sober- NOT a treatment center.
The following instructions are simple; this does not need to be complicated. Simple, not always easy, if you have a strong desire you will make it over any difficulties you may encounter. This has been my experience. I sincerely wish you every success. I believe god doesn’t place a desire in our hearts without also giving us everything we need to accomplish that goal.
Here’s what we’ve done.
We came to San Angelo Texas in the early part of 2001. I had promised my mom that I would take care of her when she got older and since she had returned to Texas to take care of her mother after the death of my father, we were off to San Angelo Texas.
Mom helped us get a small ‘fixer upper’ in a nice residential area of the city of about 90,000 people. The house was near the college and shopping. We began fixing up the house, learning as we went along how to drywall, plumb and paint. We bought our first big house on Adams street, hence “Adams House Independent Sober Living” homes started. We had only saved just over $3000.00 and that was just enough to purchase our first sober living home. It had the home itself with 3 ½ bedrooms upstairs and kitchen, dining, living room and office downstairs. We were able to convert the office and living room into bedrooms because the dining room was large and able to serve as both living room and dining room. At the side of the home there’s an apartment with its own kitchen and bathroom, there’s also an efficiency apartment over the garage.
Since it had been a rooming house for over thirty years we jumped in with both feet it was scary, I didn’t know for sure if a sober living home was wanted or needed in San Angelo Texas. We had a plan B, just in case. If need be we could move into the main house, my mom could have the apartment and we could rent the apartment over the garage.
As it turned out we started getting referrals from local hospitals, treatment centers, clergy and physicians. We furnished the home on a shoe string budget with used furniture from family and friends. We cleaned and painted ourselves. A friend I had met in meetings agreed to be a resident manager.
After less than a year we purchased two more homes closer to downtown. After another year two more were purchased and so on until we had nine homes and, including managers and assistant managers in the larger homes, almost one hundred residents. This was simply too many to manage so we cut back to seven homes, most of the rooms have double occupancy and we increased the number of single occupancy rooms. Now, including managers, we have a capacity of sixty-two people with about five to ten empty beds at any given time.
I believe a big part of our success is that
If someone wants to stay clean and sober, whether they have money, a job, or not, if we have an empty bed we take them in.
Conversely, no matter the money or anything else, if someone picks up a drug or a drink they have to leave immediately or the next morning if they are cooperative).
When Someone New Arrives
We explain the purpose of Adams House to provide a safe drug & alcohol free place to live where they can pursue their recovery.
We go over our sober living agreement and information sheet.
Take them to their first twelve step meeting. Explain the importance of getting a sponsor to asset the thru the steps as rapidly as possible
The next morning we take them to local non-profit agencies to receive donated food and clothes (sometimes a bicycle).
Then if needed we begin the process to get I.D., Birth certificates, Social Security cart,etc
We created a sober living agreement (SLA) (see bottom of this page). Framed SLA is posted in every house along with the house rules. The basics were no drugs, no addictive medication (even if prescribed by a physician), no alcohol, and no violence, clean up after yourself and help when asked. We discovered several local non-profit agencies that gave our residents clothing, food and sometimes bicycles. Local businesses were eager to hire our residents, often because they were “clean and sober”. We found that giving new residents their first week at no charge helped. We also expected them to get a job during that first week. Rents are due every Friday night for the next week. Tenants have the option to pay weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, with a slight discount given for tenants who pay bi-weekly and monthly. Most residents get paid on Friday every two weeks. House managers have key copies to every room in the house and are in charge of collecting rent at property assigned. I then Collect all sober living fees Saturday morning from all the houses and deposit in the bank. I make a new rent list for managers and distribute.
Type of Property
We have sober living homes in a variety of properties.
Our first Adams House had been a rooming house for approximately thirty years when we purchased it with a side apartment and an apartment over the garage.
Our second property in San Angelo had been a large two story home that had been easily converted into four units by closing and locking some doors so we just unlocked the doors.
Both single family homes where dens, offices, etc were converted to bedrooms.
We have a home that was once a duplex, then a counseling center and now is an open door duplex
Lastly, one of our homes was a local bar (since the twenties) before we bought it and converted to a home. We were permitted by the city, did a build out and are ok’d as an eight person rooming house..
When choosing a location we look for middle class neighborhoods.
Close to bus lines or other public transportation
Walking distance to twelve step meetings
Walking distance to grocery shopping or at least a convenience store for the basics (bread, milk, eggs, ect.)
Close to laundry facilities (only important if these are not provided at home)
It is vital to make friends with neighbors, let them know that you are friends sharing a home
Residents are sharing homes with the agreement that we shall all be alcohol and drug free and smoke outside.
Zoning (very important)
I’ve found that zoning can be different-but it is important to check the zoning for any property that you are interested in setting up as a sober living home.
Single family residence
For us we found in most residential neighborhoods there is a limit of four unrelated people per single family residence. Since residents come and go we are comfortable going up to five occasionally since we may be down to three the next day plus a residential manager.
Again four unrelated per residence in the case of homes that were four units when we purchased them, four times four would mean that could have sixteen but we usually have nine to twelve.
The bar was converted with permits to an eight person rooming house, we typically house five there.
One was ‘grandfathered’ in as a rooming house with apartments and one was a duplex with open door, four by two equals eight.
Rent or Own
We prefer to own our properties and with a modest five percent down payment we were able to purchase our first property.
Later-We purchased some ‘fixer uppers’ that our lender provided the financing to purchase and additional funds for renovations and repairs to a total of eighty percent of the eventual value.
I’ve helped other friends set up homes who preferred to rent.
Whether you decide to rent, lease or purchase is obviously your choice, based upon you own abilities and preferences.
Starting Out On a Small Budget
Ok, let’s say that you have a small two to three bedroom home with one or two bathrooms. If it’s only a two bedroom single family home you may find a small breakfast room or office as a single room for a manager.
Each home has a resident manager paying half rent; in addition the larger homes have an assistant manager. Whenever possible we try to give our managers a private room.
These estimates are based on San Angelo Texas 20016. You’ll need to modify these figures for your area.
Example: $800 per month rental or mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance)
$400 utilities (gas, electric, water, ect.)
$70 cable and phone
$1,270 total monthly estimate.
4 people @ $400=$1,600
1 manager@200= $200
Expenses $1,270 (Includes 5% vacancy , Repairs, and “no pay”)
Bear in mind that due to empty beds and unforeseen expenses you may only make about half of your prospective profit.
You may ask residents to pay for internet as an additional charge.
We currently charge=
1 week in advance $120x4.3= about $500 a month
2 weeks in advance $200= $440 per month
1 month in advance $400=$400 per month
If a resident can’t work or find work we allow them to do small jobs lawns, clean up, paint etc; rather than owe
We are not non-Profit
Male, Female or Co Ed?
We have found that men are, by far, easier to have as residents than women.
I’m a woman so, please, just take my word for it.
We currently have seven homes in Texas -no female only homes, six male only home and one co ed home that runs well because we have an excellent female manager and a male assistant manager at that home.
Couples, Children and Pets
We have had couples, some who have met at our homes. Some who were married went o separate treatment centers and lived with us after treatment to ‘get to know each other’ clean and sober.
We have, on rare occasions, had children-these were special cases and we don’t recommend it.
We’ve had residents with pets; this is as a rule, a bad idea but sometimes works out well. We still have one house cat that was left and we love him (2001).
House Rules, Curfews, etc.
Along with all the sane rules in our sober living agreement is important to get along with the other residents. Neither isolation, grumpiness, or drama helps a home. House meetings are encouraged for they help to “clear the air”.
Maintenance, Cleaning, Repairs, Bugs, etc.
Owners/managers can make a list of cleaning and maintenance duties that can rotate monthly or weekly.
Repairs or major improvements can be exchanged at a fair rate for lodging fees.
Bed bugs have become an issue in some of the nicest cleanest homes and hotels across the country. We like to have new residents put all their clothes for thirty minutes in a hot dryer. We dust under beds with diatomaceous earth from the garden department of most home improvement stores. As you read this newer and better products may be available. It is important to handle any type of infestations ASAP.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
We let our residents know that we do random drug and alcohol tests.
In reality we test when we believe that someone may be drinking or using.
We usually test a minimum of three people (with the person we suspect as one of the three).
We have one of us go to the house, without warning, to do the testing. We do not have the house manager do the testing as someone might say that personalities are involved.
On rare occasions we have tested an entire household including the manager.
Anyone who refused a test and those who tested positive are told to leave asap.
At most, if cooperative, they can wait until the next morning.
We allow residents to leave belongings for three days and then, by appointment with the manager and if they are sober they can come and pick up their belongings.
When asked to leave or they decide to leave we always refund their prorated sober lodging fees.
When we go to test we tell residents that if they ‘come clean’ and tell us that they are drunk or have used so that we don’t have to waste a test then.
They go someplace for two weeks (sometimes less)while still maintaining sobriety.
We place them in a different house.
We buy our tests wholesale for between $5-$10 each, they are easily obtainable online. You can also contract with a local testing lab at $50+
Furnishings, Linens, Pillows, etc.
We only have twin (single) beds and we’ve purchased beds at large retail stores for a reasonable price.
Buy linens at large retailers, used stores and garage sales.
We prefer blankets, not quilts, because it is easier to ensure their clean.
We like to give everyone a new pillow and we buy them in packs of two at a very reasonable price. (Please refer to 2015 set-up budget)
Minimum Setup budget for small house-double or triple for large home
5 beds-$200 each=$1000
3-5 dressers $100 each=$400
Living room furniture used =$500
Dining room table and chairs used=$200
Boxed service for 4 dishes, glasses, silverware=$40
Pots and pans=$30
Although the information is reasonably complete private consulting is available for a Fee. See contact page for more info
I was born at the Hotel Deaux in Windsor, Ontario, Canada on October 13th, 1946 to Ophelia May Johnson Neumeyer (22) and Walter Edward Neumeyer (29). They were both American and United States citizens, had met when he was stationed at Goodfellow Air force Base in San Angelo, Texas where mom lived and worked as a secretary after graduating from Angelo State University. They stayed in San Angelo after they married until dad’s father passed away and dad took over the family coal business-buying from the mines in Kentucky and Pennsylvania and selling to businesses in Canada. When this occurred, dad took his new bride up north where his mother allowed them to live in the family lake house on Cliffside beach. This is the home they took their little girl(me) to when I was a few days old and my sister two and a half years later.
The home was high on a cliff overlooking the lake. There was a large circular drive pave with coal chips, the house was a large three story house with red shutters and no visible neighbors. I would run to the edge of the cliff and throw my doll down to the beach below and my dad would go down the semi terraced cliff to retrieve it.
The memories of Cliffside beach are so vivid because as a child we would spend summer vacations there with my aunts and their girls, all female cousins-I was the oldest of seven girls. We would play, go barefoot all summer long. We would swim in the lake, get sunburned (no one worried about sunburns back then), and wait to turn tan. We built fires on the beach and caught fireflies. Our feet were tender on the coal driveway when we arrived and calloused by the time we left.
When I was five my parents moved us to Detroit and then to the suburbs. Grosse Point was the place to live, my grandmother poured tea as the president of the woman’s club. Grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins all lived within a few blocks or miles from us. Holidays were spent at one aunts or another and there was always alcohol. At one house all us girls were in the basement rec room and we could hear our uncle and my dad, both drinking, get into it. Growing up I cannot remember a time that my dad didn’t drink.
There was a routine. He would come home from work, drink, pass out on the sofa, come to at about one or two in the morning (sometimes I’d hear him getting sick in the bathroom), then he’d be up singing and cooking us breakfast in the early morning before we went to school.
Once in my early teens he asked me to ‘help’ him stop drinking, it was late so when he wasn’t looking I poured his bottle of whiskey down the sink. That was the only time he asked for my help. I didn’t see alcohol as a ‘fun’ thing and that may be why I was not drawn to it as a child.
Mom didn’t drink or smoke (she was southern Baptist) but I don’t really recall her criticizing my dad for drinking-or anything else for that matter.
I believe that the first time I ever drank I was seventeen and my boss gave me what I think was peach schnapps. I went home and the room whirled around, I did not like the feeling and didn’t try drinking again for a couple of years. Fast forward thru years of drinking, first for fun, then to lessen the inhibitions so I could do the things that I thought I had to do to be liked, loved and accepted. Then the solution became the problem, if I didn’t drink I’d shake, so I drank.
I was able to stop for a few years, and then I thought I could ‘control’ it and began again. For many years I’d have periods of sobriety, when life was good, followed by worse bouts of drinking and in and out of treatment centers, hospitals, jail, meetings and more despair until I finally was introduced to the twelve steps and the twelve step recovery program.
I have now celebrated many years of sobriety. I believe that alcoholism is a disease that is hereditary. With a program of recovery it can be arrested but never cured. I know that I can never become a normal drinker, and at times I have a mental obsession to drink like other people. It is in part defined by the craving that has to be satisfied after I take the first drink/drug. Once I have that first drink I have to have more and more to disastrous results.
Today I sponsor other women and attend twelve step meetings. I also take a meeting once a week to the local treatment center. I’m a mom, a grandma and happily sober.
More money for private prisons leads to more and more prisons. Less money for treatment leads to less and less treatment centers. Living in a sober living home where there is comradary and accountability works to provide the environment where, when an individual decides to change, that change is possible